'I’m the Fashion Director at Lane Crawford and I live in Hong Kong. I came back to the company nine years ago, because it wanted to rebrand itself—fashion is about change and evolution, not about staying still, but it’s also about staying true to who you are. Lane Crawford was much more traditional before I came on board. But any business, to survive and stay relevant, needs to evolve. So my job has been about repositioning, and rebuilding—really, from scratch—a wonderful heritage brand, by making it relevant for who the customer is today and to be cognizant, enough, smart enough, and ahead of the curve to not rest on your laurels. Lane Crawford is 163 years old, coming up on 164, and is very trusted.
We have a very, very strong beauty business. Skin is extremely important in China, and Lane Crawford is actually Crème de la Mer’s number one client in the world. We are also the number one retailer for the Estée Lauder group. SK-II and Fresh have grown exponentially, too, since they launched in China, which was very recently. The Chinese so want to embrace the new, but it takes a long time for a brand to be able to launch in this country. They can’t just go in whenever they decide. They have to go through all the testing and branding. It takes a while. Once all of that is done, then a launch can happen. That's why there are very few indie brands here.
In terms of my routine, I have never worn a lot of makeup. I have a very natural look, and the older I get, the less makeup and fewer colors I wear. I suppose it’s because I live in a climate that’s extremely humid, where makeup slides off of your face. I could never do a bright lipstick—I think we all made the mistake in the ‘80s. I don’t even wear lipstick now; instead, I always wear lip gloss. I love LipFusion Micro-Injected Collagen Lip Plump in Bare. It tingles on your lips, but it doesn’t plump— nothing plumps your lips. I mean, come on. But the moisture in it is phenomenal. I've always liked natural, nude shades. I won’t follow trends because I’m not a slave to them—my cosmetic choices are for me, not what’s going on in fashion. If it’s 'all about a heavy eye,' that’s never going to work for me because I have small eyes and it will just smudge all over the place. There’s no point for me to go there.
For eye makeup, I usually wear taupe and beige shadow with a light charcoal along the lids that I draw with a powder, never a pencil. And I only wear mascara maybe six times a year, like for the Met Ball, and only at night. It always runs down my face and gets into my contact lenses, no matter what.
I have thick eyebrows. You know all those people that are like, ‘Oh, I used to pluck my eyebrows, and they never grew back.’ I’ve never had that. If I didn’t pluck every day, I’d have a super thick, single eyebrow. I can over-pluck and a week later it will fill in. When I do accidentally take a big chunk out of one of my eyebrows, I love the Tom Ford Brow Sculptor in Espresso. I’m obsessed. No one’s is better. And the hair on my eyebrows is very long, so I use Laura Mercier Eye Brow Gel to keep everything in place. It's interesting: in China, lush eyebrows signify wealth. As a people, the Chinese tend to not be terribly hairy, so people are very much into penciling them in here. When I first came to Hong Kong, I’d see all the old ladies with their painted eyebrows on. It has always been like this.
On my skin, I use La Mer foundation, because it’s not too heavy. I changed my foundation when I turned 42 because I needed something lighter for my wrinkles. I find that every seven years I can see that my skin has aged. Now, it’s much drier and thinner. By the time I get to my late 40s, I will need to change it again. I’m not a proponent of fillers, I like the crevices—it’s part of aging. My mother is 83 and she’s absolutely beautiful. What’s wrong with wrinkles? Fillers stop working after a while anyway, especially when you start at 22 or 23. Just slap on a heavy moisturizer and try to stay out of the sun... But I grew up in a different time. I was baby-oiling up for twelve hours of sunbathing like a rotisserie chicken on a spear. I lived in the sun, and it has probably destroyed my skin a lot. I love a tan—it makes me feel better—but now I use Nars bronzer instead of going in the sun. A tan on me now doesn’t look as fresh; it’s more like a lizard handbag. If I’m really dark, I’ll wear Bobbi Brown bronzer. I actually have very, very pale skin, but a little bronzer makes me feel less tired. It’s certainly not a Snooki or Jersey Shore kind of look.
I’m really lazy about removing my makeup. At the end of the day, I’ll just use the Neutrogena Deep Clean Oil-Free Makeup Remover Cleansing Wipes and probably not even cleanse or tone. But, first thing in the morning, to wash my face, I splash it with freezing cold water to close the pores. I even end my showers with freezing cold water because I want to start the day with closed pores. I bought a Clarisonic six weeks ago and I’m loving that. I’ve noticed such a difference already because it takes off the layers of dead skin. Until three months ago, I never used a toner, because I thought it was an astringent that would strip my face. But a Lane Crawford cosmetic concierge told me to try one. The cosmetic concierges are brilliant because they’re not trying to flog you with everything in the house, they will just find the right thing for you. No one had ever told me the reason for a toner, and she said, ‘It will help your skin better absorb your cream’s moisture.’ It was as simple as that.
I’m all about as much moisture as possible—a cream cannot be heavy enough. The older I get, the more moisture I need, so I follow up my toner with the classic Crème de la Mer and let that sink in for twenty minutes. I’m a Crème de la Mer girl through and through. I've been using it since I was 27.
Another thing that I've found through getting older is that blonder hair is less harsh for me. My hair is naturally black—that’s the half-Italian in me—but I dyed it seven years ago to give me a softer look. During the winter months, I like it to be quite caramel, but in the summer, I like it blonder. Every blonde that comes to Hong Kong asks me where I get my hair done—I even get asked when I’m in New York. We all go to Justin Paul Chambers at Salon Chandler. He's amazing. I used to have pin straight hair, but when I moved to Hong Kong, it changed completely. With the humidity, it gets kinky and curly underneath. I only wash my hair at night now, because I need to let it naturally dry and then sleep on it to flatten it. When I’m traveling, I’ll pop in anywhere to get a blow-out. I can’t keep it straight in Hong Kong, only the Hong Kong-ers get to see my curls. [Laughs]
I could go out with greasy hair just tied up or without makeup on, but I would never, ever, under any circumstances walk out of the house without putting on perfume. I need a beautiful smell, something fresh. I wear Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Cologne. People know me by that, and I think it smells delicious. My sense of smell is off the charts—when you’ve got a nose this size, and I love my nose, your sense of smell is extraordinary. I can actually smell people and tell what they’re wearing. So, I always keep Jo Malone in my bag. Even if I was at home sick, by myself, I would put it on. It lifts my spirit. It’s like putting on a pair of high heels—I have a lot more strength in a pair of heels than I do when I’m in flats.
The only thing that I don’t do myself is have my toenails painted. I always wear the same light nude: Deborah Lippmann Naked. The Shanghainese pedicure is like nothing else around. They really focus on your feet. I’ve been seeing the same woman for twenty years, so I’ve never developed calluses or anything, even after brutalizing my feet with high heels. My feet need to look beautiful—that’s my beauty thing.”
—as told to ITG
Sarah Rutson photographed by Emily Weiss on June 10, 2013.